The Stammering Century

The Stammering Century

by Gilbert Seldes, Greil Marcus

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Gilbert Seldes, the author of The Stammering Century, writes:

      This book is not a record of the major events in Ameri­can history during
      the nineteenth century. It is concerned with minor movements, with the
      cults and manias of that period. Its personages are fanatics, and radicals,
      and mountebanks. Its intention is to connect these secondary movements
      and figures with the primary forces of the century, and to supply a back-
      ground in American history for the Prohibitionists and the Pente­costalists;
      the diet-faddists and the dealers in mail-order Personality; the play censors
      and the Fundamen­talists; the free-lovers and eugenists; the cranks and
      possibly the saints. Sects, cults, manias, movements, fads, religious
      excitements, and the relation of each of these to the others and to
      the orderly progress of America are the subject.

The subject is of course as timely at the beginning of the twenty-first century as when the book first appeared in 1928. Seldes’s fascinated and often sympathetic accounts of dreamers, rogues, frauds, sectarians, madmen, and geniuses from Jonathan Edwards to the messianic murderer Matthias have established The Stammering Century not only as a lasting contribution to American history but as a classic in its own right.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590175958
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 452
Sales rank: 1,113,608
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Gilbert Seldes (1893–1970), the younger brother of famed foreign correspondent and investigative journalist George Seldes, was an influential American journalist, writer, and cultural critic, noted for championing the popular arts. Born into the Jewish agricultural community of Alliance Colony, New Jersey, to philosophical anarchist parents of Russian Jewish descent, he attended Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School and graduated from Harvard University, where he became friends with e. e. cummings and John Dos Passos. After working as a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and as a war correspondent in England during World War I, he joined the staff of The Dial and became the New York correspondent for T. S. Eliot’s The Criterion. In 1923, however, he went to Paris to write a book in praise of popular culture. The result, The Seven Lively Arts, appeared the following year to both considerable acclaim and criticism for its celebration of the likes of Al Jolson over John Barrymore and Charlie Chaplin over Cecil B. DeMille. In Paris, Seldes met and married Alice Wadhams Hall; the couple would have two children, Timothy, a literary agent, and Marian, a Tony Award–winning actor. Seldes later wrote columns for The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire, adapted Lysistrata and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Broadway, made historical documentary films, wrote radio scripts, and became the first director of television for CBS and the founding dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His other many books of cultural criticism and social analysis include The Years of the Locust (1932), The Movies Come from America (1937), The Great Audience (1950), and The Public Arts (1956). Seldes also published a novel, The Wings of the Eagle (1929), and, under the name Foster Johns, two books of detective stories.

Greil Marcus is the author of The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, Lipstick Traces, and other books; with Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America. In recent years he has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Princeton University, the New School University, and the University of Minnesota. He was born in San Francisco and lives in Oakland.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

A Note on Method xxiii

Part I

I The Stammering Century 3

II A Stormer of Heaven 13

III Times of Refreshing 36

IV Gasper River 51

V The New Eden- 69

VI -And the Old Adam 81

VII Winners of Souls 93

VIII A Messianic Murderer 117

IX The New Soul 133

X The Perfect Communist 157

XI Reformer and Radical 199

XII An Apostle of the Newness 207

XIII Sweetness and Light 227

XIV A Saint 239

XV The Winsome Heart 249

XVI A Moral Hijacker 273

XVII Some Women Reformers 279

Part II

XVIII "The Coming of the Prophets" 295

XIX The Forerunners 299

XX The Business of Prophecy 321

XXL The Good News from Rochester 331

XXII Northbound Horses 348

XXIII The Path to Nothing 366

XXIV Christian Science 376

XXV The Kingdom of God in Chicago 389

XXVI The Complex of Radicalism 402

Sources 412

Index 413

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